GP-40 Survivors

Fifty-nine of EMD’s GP40 and GP40-2’s were the backbone of the latter day Western Pacific motive power fleet, although the number had been lessoned to 56 by merger day due to three retirements: 3505 wrecked at Floka, Nevada on March 28, 1970; 3527 and 3540 (the latter was former bicentennial unit 1976), both wrecked at Hayward, California on April 9, 1980.

3501-3516, the first two groups of GP40’s had been delivered new to the WP in 1966-67 and had been rebuilt by Morrison-Knudsen for WP in 1980. Except for 3505 they all remained in service on the UP after the merger. The third and fourth groups of GP40’s were delivered during 1970-71 carrying numbers 3517 through 3544. It is these two groups of units that saw the most movement in terms of different operators since merger day.

Although assigned Union Pacific numbers only a few of these forty-one units were actually renumbered. Only one unit, 3532, was repainted into UP yellow as well as the only WP unit to ever be painted yellow and lettered Western Pacific. Prior to their sale by owners Helm Leasing and GATX Leasing to Chicago, Missouri & Western, various units from this group had spent time on the Kyle Railroad in Kansas, Missouri-Kansas-Texas subsidiary Oklahoma-Kansas-Texas in Oklahoma and on the Soo Line.

All of WP’s un-rebuilt GP40’s were subsequently placed into storage at Stockton, California in March 1983. Later that month all stored units were moved from Stockton to Oroville, and in May moved again, this time to Portola. Finally in August the units were taken to Salt Lake City, Utah joining other WP units already in storage there. In December 1983 MP sub-leased from UP for a period of 18-months all of the ex-WP GP40’s. Those units in storage were prepared for movement and sent to the Missouri Pacific in January 1984 for service in Texas, being assigned to Fort Worth for maintenance.

Those sixteen units (WP 3501-3516) having been rebuilt by Morrison Knudsen in 1980 and had low miles on their prime movers, were then fully repainted UP yellow and renumbered into UP or MP units, with the MP units later being relettered UP. WP 3517-3544 hadn't been rebuilt and by mid 1985 only fifteen of the twenty-six were still in service. The lease on WP 3517-3526 terminated on August 15, 1985 and MP planned to purchase the units and rebuild them to GP38-2’s during 1987. The lease on WP 3527-3544 terminated on April 1, 1986 and MP planned to also purchase these units and rebuild them to GP38-2’s in 1987 and 1988. The lease on WP 3501-3516, recapitalized by WP and rebuilt by Morrison Knudsen in 1980, expired on January 1, 1993 but did not provide an option for purchase, instead the only option UP had was to extend the lease in two year increments.

Twenty-six ex-WP GP40’s, road numbers 3517-3544, were placed into storage in April 1985 (at Houston and Spring, Texas, and at North Little Rock, Arkansas) to avoid maintenance costs until their lease expired. On June 30, 1985 the 18-month sub-lease of WP units to MP expired and the 16 units remaining in the 3527-3544 group were returned to UP. All units remained in storage, again to avoid maintenance costs; the prime movers on all of the units having over a million miles on them. During mid 1984 MP had formulated plans to rebuild all of the ex-WP GP40’s into GP38-2’s, at the new Jenks Shop in North Little Rock, Arkansas at a projected cost of $589,000 per unit, however the final decision was that the cost of the program was too high and instead the units would be returned to the UP and retired upon expiration of their leases.

ex WP units on CMNW
Five ex WP GP40's along with other leased units being moved on the CMNW prior to entering service on April 29, 1987. Photo by Steve Smedley

The 15-year lease on WP 3517-3526 expired on August 15, 1985 and the units were retired on August 20, 1985. They were returned to the owner/lessor, Helm Financial, on August 31, 1985. On September 21, 1985 Helm leased four former WP GP40’s (WP 3517, 3520, 3524, 3525) to Kyle Railways. In early July 1986, Helm had leased the other five former ex-WP GP40’s (WP 3519, 3521, 3522, 3523, 3526) to MKT. The units had been stored at Settegast Yard in Houston, Texas, since April 1985, so prior to the units being leased to MKT, Helm had contracted with both UP, at Fort Worth, Texas, and with MKT, at Parsons, Kansas, to return them to operating condition. The lease to MKT expired and in September 1986 the five units were leased to Soo Line. In November 1986 Kyle received their ex Conrail GP40’s (which were in better mechanical condition) and returned the five former-WP units to Helm. Helm contracted with UP, at North Little Rock, Arkansas, to return them to operating condition. Helm then leased these units (WP 3517, 3518, 3520, 3524, 3525) to Soo Line, joining the other five units already leased to Soo. Included in the lease to Soo was WP 3518, which had remained in storage at Lloyd Yard in Spring, Texas. Soo Line returned all ten units to Helm in February 1987 because they were in such poor condition, requiring constant attention from Soo Line’s own shop forces to keep them running. All 10 units, having returned from lease, were then leased to Chicago, Missouri & Western for that road’s start-up in April 1987, becoming CMNW 3000-3009. Prior to the lease taking effect, Helm contracted with CMNW, at Michigan City, Indiana, to recondition the units.

On August 19, 1985 six of the former WP GP40’s in the group 3528-3544 were sub-leased by UP to MKT for 30 days for service on their OKT lines. The units were all still in full WP paint and numbers. Renumbering to UP 600 series numbers consisted of covering their former WP lettering and numbers with black spray paint and then spray-painting the new UP numbers on the cab sides in orange. (WP 3517-3526 were assigned UP 666-675 but were never painted or numbered for UP). All 16 remaining GP40’s in the WP 3527-3544 group were leased to MKT, but only the above six were actually sent to MKT, the other ten not being in operating condition. By early September 1985, only two units (UP 676 and 681) were still on the MKT, the other four had been returned to UP with mechanical problems. The units were put back in storage by UP at Lloyd Yard in Spring, Texas. Included were UP 676 (WP 3528), 679 (WP 3531), 681 (WP 3533), 684 (WP 3536), 686 (WP 3538), 690 (WP 3543). The other 10 units had remained in storage at either Spring or Houston, Texas.

In October 1985 some of the rebuilt WP GP40’s were stored in Texas by MP. With UP’s shortage of four-axle motive power, all were soon removed from storage and sent to UP for service. MP 651, UP 654, 658, 661, MP 662, UP 665 were equipped at Salt Lake City for local service in Oregon, which included strobe lights, dead-man controls, and chemical toilets.

The 15-year lease on ex-WP 3528-3544 expired on September 30, 1986 and the units were retired. During the first week of October 1986 the 16 remaining, of the 18 original units in the 3528-3544 group, were returned to the owner/lessor, GATX. UP moved the units to North Little Rock, Arkansas during mid-December 1986. In late February 1987, GATX shipped the units to Mid-America Car in Kansas City for clean-up and sale or lease. WP 3529, 3539, UP 686, and 690 were shipped from North Little Rock in primer paint with their UP or WP numbers in white. UP 680 was the only yellow unit in the group. By early March 1987 all 16 units were at Mid-America Car and were in primer paint. In April 1987 all 16 units (along with the 10 units from the WP 3517-3526 group) were leased to the Chicago, Missouri & Western (CMNW) and were part of that road’s initial roster of locomotives. Helm Financial was the lessor of the units to CMNW, acting as agent for GATX, the owner of the units.

Apparently all 26 were transferred to the new Gateway Western Railway (GWWR) when that road took over part of CMNW’s bankrupt operations in January 1990. GWWR sold 22 units to Wilson, and Wilson sold 17 of those to Wisconsin Central. WC rebuilt nine units themselves at North Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin. The remaining eight units were in very poor shape and were sent to Livingston Rebuild Center in Livingston, Montana, for a complete rebuild. The WC rebuild effort included rebuilt cabs, complete overhaul, and reactivation of the dynamic braking. Wilson sold the remaining five GWWR units to Morrison Knudsen for its SP/SSW GP40-2 program, with all five units becoming SP GP40-2s in November 1990. The other four units that GWWR did not sell to Wilson went to the Kansas City Southern.